Category: South Africa (page 12 of 25)

Brace yourselves – Australia have a dossier

And it’s been leaked!

We don’t really know what a dossier is. Is it just a piece of paper with a list on it?

Whatever it is, it contains some staggering revelations:

  1. Australian bowlers are going to bowl some bouncers
  2. Australian cricketers are going to call an opponent names

Apparently, the second one’s the exciting one. The terms to be used are not actually stated, but we have reason to believe that they will include “flaming galah” and possibly even extend as far as “knobhead”.

The most astonishing thing about this story is the fact that Cricket Australia has actually managed to take the decision to “leak” a dossier. Imagine how many committee meetings and approval emails from management figures that must have necessitated.

We can only conclude that they’re absolutely bricking it about playing South Africa.


Jos Buttler dismantles Wayne Parnell

Wayne Parnell went for 37 off two overs yesterday. He conceded five in the first.

In the second, Jos Buttler took him apart as if he were an old, rotten shed which had tried to have sex with his daughter. We’re not exactly sure how a shed would go about doing that, but it’s the only way we can properly convey the heartfelt zeal with which Buttler took to his task and the effect this had on Parnell. Buttler really, really meant business and Parnell collapsed like old, wet wood (by which we mean timber).

Everyone who’s ever stood behind us for four hours watching us play the latest version of International Cricket Captain will know that we insist on having Jos Buttler in our one-day sides. In a world infatuated with chancy sloggers who live off the glory of the rare days when their modus operandi comes off, he seems the most reliable.

His job is to take risks, but yet he has been surprisingly consistent. Surely there must be something in that?


What are England and South Africa playing for tonight?

Are they playing for pride, honour, a trophy?

No! They’re playing for momentum.

Going into the Twenty20 World Cup with this batting line-up, England will need as much momentum as they can get, because it rather feels like they’re about to roll into a brick wall rather than a little hillock.

A common refrain from batsmen in the early days of Twenty20 cricket was ’20 overs is longer than you think’. It isn’t, unless you think there’s four balls in an over. However, the subtext – that you don’t have to take a swing at everything like a pendulum in a bar brawl – still holds true.

England’s batting seems a bit swingy. South Africa have four Test batsmen in their top five. We don’t really know who plays Test cricket for England any more, but they probably have about one Test batsman in their Twenty20 top six – either Jonny Bairstow or Eoin Morgan.

It doesn’t seem enough. It’s a different format, not a different sport, as Hashim Amla showed in the last match.


Hashim Amla WILL NOT GO AWAY

Hashim Amla hitting the ball with his bat again

We really like Hashim Amla, but by the box of Dujon, will he EVER stop batting?

There’s one more match this summer and we have every reason to believe that he’ll bat out the overs and make a hundred. It seems the most likely outcome, even if it’s another nine over match. He averaged 120.50 in the Test series, 111.66 in the one-day series and he made 47 not out off 30 balls today. He’s probably racking up hundreds on Little Master Cricket in the drinks breaks.

Aside from anything else, it’s a massive feat of endurance. A long innings is mentally and physically wearying and even if you recover the next day, you don’t fully recover. Experience repeated success on a long tour and it chips away at you. We can only presume that there must have been a lot of Hashim Amla to begin with.


Cricket’s schadenfreude production line

HURRAY!

Congratulations, South Africa. Prepare for people to delight in your fall.

In recent years, the Test rankings have been a kind of schadenfreude production line. One nation gets to the top and promptly celebrates and then everyone else celebrates even more heartily when the team in question drops down again.

It doesn’t seem to matter whether you were ahead by miles for many years, like Australia, or whether you merely nosed ahead for a brief period, like India and England. As soon as you’re technically first, the bullseye is applied and the pot shots begin.

It’s a good system. Everyone gets a turn and everyone gets a laugh as well.

“The hunters become the hunted”

A lot of players use this phrase when they’re trying to tell you that it’s harder to stay at number one than it is to get there in the first place. This is, quite honestly, horseshit.

Reaching and remaining number one are the exact same thing: you have to win slightly more than anyone else over a prolonged period of time. It’s actually easier to stay top in the short term, because you’ve already got more points than anyone else and therefore have a slight buffer.

We’re not sure we believe that the opposition up their game just because you’re ranked number one either. Cricketers are generally quite keen to win cricket matches whoever they’re playing. Also, when you’re far and away the best, the opposition are intimidated. Nineties England sides LOWERED their game when playing Australia.

In recent years, India, England and South Africa have all earned the right to call themselves the number one Test side, but they haven’t gone beyond that. If they’re honest, their status has generally been at the mercy of injuries, poor form or even just the future tours programme.

Great teams earn leeway for themselves, but no-one has achieved that of late. If remaining at number one feels harder, it’s because your status is inherently fragile.


Hashim Amla is a bit too good

Hashim Amla is not new. He’s been bearding hundreds for many years now. It is therefore no surprise that his second innings hundred tipped the balance from ‘could go either way’ to ‘very probably a South Africa win’. Vernon Philander’s two late wickets then shoved it to ‘almost certainly a South Africa win’ but he can thank Amla for giving him the opportunity to do that.

Going into the final day, all results are at least technically still possible, so for the most part it’s been a fairly even Test. ‘Fairly even’ doesn’t mean ‘destined for a draw’. It means one side has had to play well to get into a position of dominance and Amla’s contribution looks most influential.

It’s not just England’s specialist batsmen who have been found wanting in this match. Take Amla’s hundred out and South Africa’s top six have actually only scored 14 runs between them. This is a lie – but not that big a lie.

However, with batsmen like Amla, it’s not just about the shots or the runs; it’s the sense you get when he’s batting. It just doesn’t feel like he’s ever going to get out. We don’t know much about professionalism, but Amla’s helmet and clothes must reek of it. Professionalism smells, right?


Jonny Bairstow isn’t bothered

Jonny Bairstow holding a cricket bat and looking at something

You wonder whether it’s worth England batting Jonny Bairstow at the top of the order. It’s not that he’s particularly suited to the role, but if the opposition remain hell-bent on bouncing the shit out of him, it might soften the ball a bit for all the batsmen who follow.

Turns out Jonny Bairstow doesn’t really have a weakness against the short ball – at least not a significant weakness; not a debilitating Suresh Raina level of incompetence. He can duck okay and he can play the pull shot. He’ll probably get better with more experience.

As it stands, he’s good enough to make 72 not out against a quick attack on a decent pitch under clear skies. This isn’t to damn him with faint praise. It’s just stating the facts. There was plenty to admire about his innings without turning it into fiction.

Mostly, like England’s last ginger right-hander, he just doesn’t seem that bothered by stuff. At one point, he half-left and then tried to play a ball which pretty much grazed his off-stump. A lot of batsmen would feel a bit nervy after that. Bairstow genuinely seemed to find it funny.

That’s a reassuring response. A nervy batsman would have played with self-conscious certainty at the next delivery. They’d want bat on ball. Bairstow left it.


Stuart Broad fails to trouble the speed gun

Stop wasting energy jumping!

Yesterday, we said that England needed to take wickets quickly. They did. How did they achieve this? Well, actually, we’re not sure they had all that much to do with it.

It was almost like South Africa had exhausted their collective mental reserves; like much of the side’s patience and self-control had been frittered away during their 637-2 in the first Test. A bit of fortune, a dodgy decision, the odd good delivery and England are in a reasonable position.

Anderson was very good, as you’d expect. Finn was hit and miss, as you’d expect. Swann hung in there. But what of Broad? He seems to have become a lolloping and ineffectual medium-pacer. Nowt wrong with a bit of medium-pace, as long as that’s why they hired you, but ’76mph dobblage’ isn’t on Broad’s CV.

Always be wary of guns – even cricket’s speed guns. Most bowlers’ speeds have been lower in this series than in some others. The data is probably accurate for once. This in itself is of no concern, but what is striking is that Broad seems to be bowling significantly slower than James Anderson. It used to be the other way round.

As we always say: speed isn’t everything, but it is something. The usual explanations have been trotted out: bowling for swing, loss of rhythm, a niggle. It doesn’t really matter. What matters is that Broad looked the least threatening quarter of England’s bowling attack.


A bit of posturing from England and South Africa

Graeme Smith’s second innings declaration had a whiff of safe aggression about it. It was like swearing at a pedestrian from the top deck of a moving bus. England could have run and climbed aboard at the next stop, but it was never likely. They settled for doing a half-jog and waving their fist a little bit.

It was a decent Test that was a little bit knackered by the weather. A couple more sessions would have been nice, but one-nil down the onus was on England to make the running and the draw was always favourite once South Africa had taken a giant, fat man mouthful of time from the match with their first innings.

That’s the thing about a three-match series: if one team takes the lead, they can play conservatively and hedge their bets a little. It’s not that the South Africans aren’t playing to win, it’s that they don’t need to really pursue victories. They can remain on the bus.

England have to disembark and confront their opponents, but it has to be said that they’re naturally better suited to being in South Africa’s position. They’re strongest when they bide their time and apply controlled pressure.

This isn’t a complaint about the nature of the cricket, by the way. It’s actually pretty intriguing. There’s a no-time-to-waste, hit-and-run quality to three-match series which gives them an interesting dynamic. It’d be great if it got to a best-of-three scenario after two Tests had already been played, obviously, but what are you going to do?

That isn’t a rhetorical question. What are you going to do?


Kevin Pietersen abuses South Africa and buys England some time

Intimidation factor conspicuous by its absence

Up until today, South Africa have been appropriating England’s Test template. They’ve batted for bloody ages and wearied the opposition batsmen in the process, sapping their concentration and vitality. Their first innings 419 wasn’t a monstrous score, but 139 overs was plenty to put into England’s legs and minds.

It was also plenty of overs to subtract from the match, considering England have to win to have any chance of winning this stupidly short series. However, England have a Kevin Pietersen and if you have one of those, you can buy yourself a lot of time.

This 149 not out off 212 balls has included some shots that are ridiculous even when measured on the KP scale. One kamehameha drive could quite honestly have killed Dale Steyn if it hadn’t just missed his head, while a ludicrous straight six shortly afterwards snuffed out a lot of South African enthusiasm. That’s also handy. There’s more than one way to dispirit the opposition.

If you can refrain from trying to mimic him, it must be easier batting in partnership with Pietersen. The bowlers might have some added fire initially, but it would take adamantium resolve for them to shrug off some of his boundaries. They basically amount to abuse. Even the best bowler in the world can be cowed by that – at least temporarily.

Kev’s task now is to shrug off today’s cockiness and get himself in again tomorrow. Unfortunately, while he can do some amazing things with a bat in his hand, but we’re not entirely certain that’s one of them. Also, the weather forecast’s crap for day four. He definitely can’t sort that.


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